Answering Children’s Questions about Difference and Diversity
Young children love to ask questions. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do I have to have a bath?” or just responding with “Why?” to EVERYTHING you say.
As annoying as it can be, especially at this “Why?” stage, it is perfectly natural for children to question the world around them. Curiosity and this constant observation helps young children to learn, and as parents and caregivers, we should try our best to answer most questions in a sensible and practical way.
Remember that your little learner is not posing questions to embarrass you or to offend anyone. It is human nature for young children to notice differences and to compare others to themselves and their own family members. Young children are not born with the ability to be prejudiced towards others. In fact, now is the perfect time to teach them a healthy respect for our wonderfully diverse world.
How Should We Respond?
Always try to answer questions when possible. Ignoring or avoiding your child’s questions often makes them all the more frustrated and persistent.
Answer in a friendly and calm tone, and with a response that will explain diversity in simple terms that your child can understand. Some examples for the answer bank might be as follows, and following with another question will provide a distraction:
- Yes, people are born in many different colours, shapes and sizes. It’s wonderful that people are all different. What colour are my eyes compared to yours?
- Every person is unique. We look different, sound different and like different things. The world is full of lots of different and interesting people. What do you think makes you interesting?
- You look different to them too. We all look different to one another and that’s a good thing. The world would be very boring if we were all the same. Animals are all different too. What different animals can you think of?
- People are very interesting, I like that everyone is different. We must always be polite to other people too. What makes me different to you? My hair, my eyes?
This sort of response is very unlikely to offend anyone in earshot, and gently direct your child away from any pointing or giggling, while not making it into a big deal. If your child has questions about someone with a disability, you can focus on the positive aspects of what they have seen:
- Yes, that lady uses her stick to help her walk. That’s a good idea, isn’t it?
- That’s a wheelchair, they are very helpful for people who have trouble walking.
It is important for our little ones to know that they will not be told-off for asking these questions and that they can come to us for guidance at any time. Sometimes your child’s questions might need extra or more detailed explanation, and this can be done in private if you wish. Just let your little one know that you are very happy to talk about it later. Make a note of it so neither of you forget.
Remember, you don’t have to wait for your child to ask questions about diversity. Why not just make it a part of your daily learning experiences together?
Talk about the diversity and differences in plants and animals, colours and languages, or even in your own family, and read together, there are many opportunities in children’s books for learning and discussing diversity. Childcare can also be a very valuable experience for meeting new people and learning about our wonderful differences.
At Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning and Childcare we strongly believe that all children should be treated equally and that their cultural and linguistic diversity should be embraced, acknowledged, and celebrated. We actively encourage our families to share their culture, languages, routines and experiences.